What this REALLY is..
This is the town I grew up in. The info for the movie is incorrect. Here is a description of the day and movie by Cornwall town historian Janet Dempsey...
Memorial Day, 1920
Cornwall's Memorial Day of 1920 was a unique occasion in the annals of town his-tory-is there anyone who remembers that memorable day? Another question: how many times a week do you pass the Soldiers' Monu-ment near the Town Hall? Is your attention so focused on making the green light that, like most passersby, you are scarcely aware of the granite shaft and accompanying cannon on the small plot between two busy roads? The monument and older cannon are memorials to veterans of the Civil War; the second cannon, from World War I, was presented to the town on Memorial Day, 1920.
The event was fully covered by the Corn-wall Press, beginning with a special edition on May 27th, its cover printed on glossy paper bordered by a red and blue stripe, the mast-head flanked by American and French flags. The headline "Significant Event Staged for Memorial Day in Cornwall"was followed by the details: "Captain Pierre Lecomtedu Nouy, a distinguished citizen of France -an embat-tled soldier of the Great World War -repre-senting the French Government will present to the people of Cornwall, in the name of his country, a seventy-seven milimetre cannon, captured from the Germans in combat."Taken
"when the German army made its final fatal drive against Paris.. .it is the only captured cannon of the great World War ever presented to an American community." This . great honor, the article continued, was due to the efforts of Dr. Ernest G. Stillman.
Column one of the newspaper lists the parade's line of march. Forming at the Village Square, it would proceed down Hudson Street as far as Mountain Road, countermarch to the upper village and onto Willow Avenue to the Firthcliffe Club, then return to the Monument where the ceremonies would take place. Spec-tators lining the parade route would see an impressive number of units. The first division, headed by the N.Y.M.A. Band, consisted of veterans of the Civil War, the Spanish-Ameri-can and World Wars, the corps of cadets, and what everyone would crane his neck to see, Captain du Nouy on horseback escorting the horse-drawn cannon. The Firthcliffe Band provided music for the second division, which included town and village dignitaries, thirteen civic and fraternal organizations, and students from the public and parochial schools and Storm King School. At the end of the parade were the Storm King and Highland Engine Companies and the Cornwall Village Band.
On page two of the paper was listed "The Veteran Dead of Cornwall," a total of one hundred and seven, buried in ten town and neighboring cemeteries.
The editor's prediction that Cornwall would welcome the Frenchman with open arms was borne out by the June 3rd issue, which featured the presentation ceremony and printed the text of Captain du Nouy's speech. "I am no speechmaker,"he began, "and I hate nothing so much as speaking in public. But today is different .... This gun is yours, and has been chosen for you by myself, three thousand miles away, at the muddy camp where it was brought right after it had been captured near Soissons....
"I love this country," he continued, "be-cause of its high ideals, backed by the most wonderful energy, and the most striking bold-ness." He spoke of his homeland-its war-torn devastation, from which it was "coming back to life in the most astonishing way," and the great gratitude it felt for America.
The editor was eloquent in praise. "As an ambassador of peace he [du Nouy] fulfilled a beautiful mission; as an educator he enhanced our learning; as a gentleman he taught us a lesson and gave himself as an example."
Supervisor Clemence C. Smith, in accept-ing the German cannon on behalf of the town, read an original poem he had written for the occasion. Then Mrs. Cyrus W. Shaw read the Gettysburg Address, also "a verse in apprecia-tion of the boys of the World War." Com-mented the editor: "Mrs. Shaw has an excellent voice and a clear delivery." The address of Dr. Jay W. Somerville, "an old-time orator," was clearly superfluous, and re-ceived scant coverage.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the Old Homestead lawn was the scene of an informal reception, a time for the townspeople to meet Captain du Nouy in person. This part of the program inspired another burst of elo-quence from the editor on the impression made by the Frenchman. "He sank his own personality in the higher motive of the cele-bration and joined heartily with the people of Cornwall in the inspiring sentiments of the day, met them like a brother, caressed the children, honored the old warriors, praised the valor of their courageous youth, and charmed the whole town by the comradeship of his gentle nature. The children loved him at once. They followed his horse in the parade and gazed at the man in an admiring wonder."
At midday, the official party of thirty re-tired to Red Men's Hall for a sumptuous luncheon at which Dr. Stillman was the toast-master. A picture of the group in front of the building is preserved in the town archives. Captain du Nouy appears in the center flanked by the surviving veterans of the Civil War. Also in the picture are Colonel Milton F. Davis, superintendent of N.Y.M.A., the town and village boards, a delegation from the American Legion, and Dr. Stillman.
Another memento of the event is a film, probably taken by Dr. Stillman-now so frag-ile that it breaks repeatedly when shown. But what a unique document! It shows Captain du Nouy on horseback surrounded by a group of children, the war veterans marching by and scenes at the Monument. It is interesting to note the rural character of the town in 1920.
The next time you drive past the Monu-ment Park, think about the Memorial Day of 1920.